Fintan O’Toole: Sinn Féin must acknowledge the disaster it helped inflict on the Irish people

Sinn Féin seeks to exercise power on both sides of the Border. It must account for how it uses power

 Cenotaph at Enniskillen with the devastated community centre in the background after it was hit by an IRA bomb. Photograph: PA

Cenotaph at Enniskillen with the devastated community centre in the background after it was hit by an IRA bomb. Photograph: PA

The 19th-century French thinker Ernest Renan asked the question: “What is a Nation?” He answered, in part, that it is a collective exercise in amnesia: “Forgetfulness, and I would even say historical error, are essential in the creation of a nation.” What has to be forgotten, in particular, is the violence and brutality that accompanied the act of creation.

It is very striking that, if you talk to Irish people under 40, this desire for forgetfulness is strong. Those who look to Sinn Féin as the only possible vehicle for the creation of a new Ireland seem increasingly irritated by the insistence of those who lived through the Troubles on some kind of moral accountability for the IRA’s 30-year campaign of mass killing.

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